Humour has become a central weapon of extremist movements to subvert open societies and to lower the threshold towards violence. Especially within the context of a recent wave of far-right terrorist attacks, we witness “playful” ways in communicating racist ideologies. As far-right extremists strategically merge with online cultures, their approach changes fundamentally. This trend has been especially facilitated by the so-called alt-right and has spread globally.
This predominantly online movement set new standards to rebrand extremist positions in an ironic guise, blurring the lines between mischief and potentially radicalising messaging. The result is a nihilistic form of humour that is directed against ethnic and sexual minorities and deemed to inspire violent fantasies — and eventually action. This paper scrutinises how humour functions as a potential factor in terms of influencing far-right extremist violence. In doing so, we trace the strategic dissemination of far-right narratives and discuss how extremists conceal their misanthropic messages in order to deny ill intention or purposeful harm.
These recent developments pose major challenges for practitioners: As a new generation of violent extremists emerges from digital subcultures without a clear organisational centre, prevention strategies need to renew focus and cope with the intangible nature of online cultures. Read more